Top Palestinian Negotiator: Only Alternative to Two-state Solution Is Single, Democratic One

Ahead of Trump-Netanyahu meet, Saeb Erkat lashes out over White House officials' comments that Trump wants peace but is not insistent on two states.

Palestinian chief negotiator and Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), Saeb Erekat, speaks during a press conference in the West Bank city of Jericho on February 15, 2017.
AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI

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Saeb Erekat, the secretary-general of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, said Wednesday that the only alternative to a two-state solution is one state with equal democratic rights for all. Speaking at a press conference in Jericho, Erekat added that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is aiming for an apartheid future.

Erekat's comments came in response to quotes attributed to a White House official on Wednesday, who said that President Donald Trump seeks Middle East peace but isn't insistent on a two-state solution. The Palestinian Foreign Ministry already expressed alarm over the official's comments, calling them a "dangerous shift" in the American position on the conflict. 

The Palestinian leadership still accepts the two-state solution and has offered a large number of concessions to support this solution, while Israel is trying to keep to a single-state solution, which, Erekat added, is an unfeasible scenario.

"Contrary to Netanyahu's plan of one state and two systems, apartheid, the only alternative to two sovereign and democratic states on the 1967 border is one single secular and democratic state with equal rights for everyone, Christians, Muslims and Jews, on all of historic Palestine," state Erekat.

The chief negotiator rejected other possibilities as well, saying that whoever thinks there are other proposals such as turning the Sinai Peninsula into an alternative for a Palestinian state is involved in a delusional proposal and it is inappropriate even to think about or respond to it. All the U.S. administrations since 1967 have adopted the two-state solution and the U.S. must act to implement it, said Erekat.

On Tuesday, a day before a Washington meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Trump, a White House official commented on the two-state solution, saying that, "It's not for us to impose that vision." The official also said that the term "two-state solution" has not been particularly well defined.

"If the statements attributed to a senior White House official are true, then this is an immediate success for Netanyahu, even before he meets with President Trump," the ministry said a few hours before Netanyahu's meeting with Trump.

"In the face of the fear of deterioration of the U.S. with such policy, the Palestinians will act to establish a wide international front to safeguard the two-state solution," the ministry said.

Erekat said the Palestinians are in contact with the new Trump administration, but have not received any official information on the American positions concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and are waiting to hear from the Trump administration.

Trump will engage in a much-anticipated meeting with Netanyahu on Wednesday, when the two are expected to discuss a wide range of issues including settlement construction, Iran and Netanyahu's desire for a regional peace plan with the Arab world.

The President's views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been mercurial with some Israeli politicians hailing a "new era" of settlement construction under Trump, despite non-committal statements from the White House that settlements, while not the cause of the conflict, are not helpful to peace.

According to Erekat, Israel's settlement policy on the West Bank is an attempt to bury the two-state solution and the international community must intervene immediately on the matter, because giving up on the two-state solution will have disastrous implications for the entire region. A Palestinian state will not be established without the Gaza Strip, and a Palestinian state will not exist in the Sinai, because that is Egyptian territory in every way, added Erekat.